Tag Archives: port

Puzzler Essentials: Take It Easy

I don’t play a lot of games on my phone these days, because a lot of them are touchscreen-controlled garbage, bad knockoffs of games that I didn’t really want to play in the first place or microtransaction-infested pits of misery and despair.

However, once in a while a game comes along with none of those issues. A game where you can pay once and just play it; a game where you’ll never see an ad, never be asked to pay again and not be bugged every ten minutes to “rate 5 stars on the App Store”.

And sometimes that game is even good! Here’s Take It Easy, by Ravensburger.

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Atari A to Z Flashback: Dominos

Dominos, another black and white title from Atari’s early days, surprised me by not at all being what I expected.

I was anticipating a fairly faithful adaptation of the tabletop game Dominoes — which wouldn’t have been altogether difficult to put together even with the rudimentary technology of the time — but instead I got a rather enjoyable, addictive two-player game in the vein of what we now know as the Snake genre.

While most people are familiar with Snake from its late-’90s Nokia phone incarnation, the idea of one or more players moving around a field and leaving an impassable trail behind them has been around since the earliest days of video games. Dominos was a very early example, following the genre progenitor Blockade by just a year. As such, it’s very simple in execution… but that doesn’t stop it being fun, particularly alongside a friend.

Find a full archive of all the Atari A to Z videos on the official site.

Atari A to Z Flashback: Canyon Bomber

Time after time in gaming, we’ve seen that the simplest concepts can be some of the most effective and addictive.

Atari’s Canyon Bomber, originally released to arcades in 1977, is a prime example of this. You only need one button to play, and that button drops bombs. The concept is so simple anyone — even someone not at all familiar with video games — can understand and enjoy it. Drop bombs, hit things, score points. Whoever scores most points, wins.

And one of the best things about this game when compared to some of its contemporaries is that the simplistic concept means that it was very straightforward to implement a “computer-controlled” opponent to compete against if you didn’t happen to have a friend handy. So even those of us with no friends can still enjoy this game… and end up playing it a lot longer than you might expect!

Find a full archive of all the Atari A to Z videos on the official site.

Atari ST A to Z: U.N. Squadron

If you thought games journalists wringing their hands over “problematic” subject matter in games was a new phenomenon… well, I got news for you, my dear reader.

U.S. Gold’s home computer conversion of Capcom’s arcade title U.N. Squadron (originally known in Japan as Area 88, after the manga it was originally based on) drew criticism from UK computer magazine ST Format in December of 1990 for being “self-righteous”, “crass” and even “propaganda”. Why? Because you shoot enemies in an obviously Middle Eastern-inspired setting — at least in the first level, anyway — and in 1990 the Gulf War had just broken out in full force.

Of course, Area 88 first came out in 1979, but let’s not let facts get in the way of a good bit of outrage, shall we? Sigh. Some things never change. Anyway, this is a reasonably solid shoot ’em up, though unsurprisingly not a patch on the awesome SNES version…

Find a full archive of all the Atari A to Z videos on the official site.

Atari A to Z Flashback: Avalanche

1978 arcade title Avalanche is a game I’d not heard of prior to encountering it on Atari Flashback Classics for Nintendo Switch, and it’s entirely possible you might not have come across it either.

The reason for this is that its official home port (developed by the creator of the arcade game, Dennis Koble) only came to Atari 8-bit computers rather than the popular 2600, and even then only through Atari’s “Atari Program Exchange” system, whereby community-developed games and software would be published by Atari.

Meanwhile, Activision, seeing a good concept that wasn’t being leveraged as much as it could be for the home market, decided to release Kaboom! for the Atari 2600 in 1981, and as a result, the idea of paddle-controlled platforms catching falling things at an increasingly unreasonable tempo tends to be credited to them rather than Atari.

You now know the truth! Shout it from the rooftops!

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Atari A to Z: Vanguard

This one was a new one on me until quite recently. I present to you Vanguard, an unusual shoot ’em up originally released by SNK in the arcades.

Vanguard is unusual because it’s not just being one thing, unlike a lot of shoot ’em ups at the time. Instead, it shifts between horizontal, vertical and diagonal scrolling at various points in the levels, and even has some rudimentary boss fights. It’s also quite unusual to find a game of this era with a proper “continue” system, particularly in its home incarnations.

While its visuals may not look like much these days, it’s a great shoot ’em up that is still worth revisiting today — and there’s an Atari 2600 version too, for those who prefer to console it up.

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Atari ST A to Z: Operation Thunderbolt

It wasn’t unusual to see lightgun shooters adapted to the 16-bit computers of the late ’80s and early ’90s. However, you didn’t tend to see a lot in the way of lightgun peripherals.

You did, however, see a lot of these games making use of mouse control to simulate aiming a gun. Some of these made use of a clear, obvious mouse cursor, allowing for precise aiming, albeit at the expense of a certain feeling of “authenticity”. Meanwhile, some, like Ocean’s solid adaptation of Taito’s Operation Thunderbolt, provided the interesting twist of making where you were aiming invisible until you fired — much like a “real” lightgun would behave.

While the ST struggles to provide a completely authentic arcade experience — particularly in the sound department, as always — Operation Thunderbolt is actually a pretty solid port, and its unusual aiming mechanics make it surprisingly satisfying and addictive to play, even today.

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